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INDIANAPOLIS — An accomplished businesswoman that founded a charitable organization to help impoverished children around the world has died at age 77, Christel House’s Director confirmed Saturday.

The Chrystel House website for Christel DeHaan states she emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1962. She went on to co-found Resort Condominiums International, where she was known for her contributions to the travel and tourism industry.

After selling the company in 1996, the bio states DeHaan used her resources and business skills to found Christel House. This organization helps break the cycle of poverty and build self-sufficient, contributing members of society. While she stepped down as CEO in late 2018, she stayed on as board chair.

In Indiana, DeHaan was known for her generosity to the arts. She served on numerous local and national boards.

Forbes recognized DeHaan as one of America’s Self-Made Women in 2019. She was also on the Forbes 400 list in 2003.

She earned three honorary doctorate degrees during her life from Marian College, the University of Indianapolis, and the University of Nottingham in England.

It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of Christel DeHaan – philanthropist, community leader, and Christel House International Founder and Board Chair. Christel died at home, surrounded by family. She leaves behind three children and her older sister, along with numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and nieces and nephews. She was 77.

After a remarkable career in business as the co-founder of Resort Condominiums International (RCI), Christel created her beloved nonprofit Christel House International in 1998 with the goal of transforming the lives of impoverished children around the globe. 

Now serving nearly 6,000 students and graduates worldwide through schools in India, Jamaica, Mexico, South Africa and the United States, Christel House was created to address the root causes of poverty through a holistic human development model. 

Thanks to Christel’s careful planning, the work of Christel House will continue to be supported through funding from the Endless Success Foundation, an organization created by her estate. It was her wish that all Christel House general and administrative expenses be covered in perpetuity. This allows all donor investments to continue to directly serve the programs and services needed by Christel House students.

“Christel’s vision and compassion were unparalleled,” says Dennert O. Ware, Chair of the Christel House International Governance Committee. “Christel sought to provide impoverished children with a seat at the table of life – and accomplished her mission with a unique blend of business acumen, generosity and empathy for those less fortunate.  Her legacy will live on in the thousands of lives she uplifted.” 

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Statement from Christel House International 

“While we were lucky that Christel decided to call Indianapolis home, she was truly a citizen of the world. As a philanthropist, Christel utilized her resources to invest in areas where she saw a need – strengthening arts and cultural institutions and providing educational opportunities to children in Indianapolis and around the globe.

I am grateful for the friendship and support of Christel over the years and know that her impact will be felt for generations to come.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett 

Indianapolis has lost a giant with the passing of Christel DeHaan today, but her legacy of philanthropy and service will continue to touch lives around the world. Christel’s steadfast commitment to listening to the voices of the anguished and taking bold action to make a difference is a lesson to us all. Where she saw disparities—in Indianapolis or across the globe—she sought to alleviate them; where she saw people in need of opportunity, she worked to open doors. Our community, and our world, are stronger because of her and the example she set.

City-County Council President Vop Osili